IT’S time for the dynasty to feel the heat. So far the global media had been tearing into the “powerless” Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh. But for the first time, the foreign media has launched a direct attack on the Congress’ mascot and its only hope to retain power at the Centre—Rahul Gandhi.
In its latest issue, The Economist has questioned the credibility of Rahul Gandhi and pointed fingers at his leadership. Taking a dig at Mr Gandhi, it stated: “As long as Mr Gandhi does not rise, it is hard for other relative youngsters to be promoted without appearing to outshine him. That has left Congress looking ever older and more out of touch.”
While the national media has been cautious and in fact has not yet dared to take on the dynasty, particularly the Gandhi clan, The Economist wrote: “He (Rahul Gandhi) has long refused to take on a responsible position, preferring to work on reorganising Congress’s youth wing, and leading regional election efforts, both with generally poor results.” Indian media including the TV channels, some of which position themselves as “courageous” has for reasons known to them refrained from taking on India’s most powerful clan—the Gandhis. The Indian media has taken on virtually all the top politicians and their families ranging from Atal Behari Vajpayee to Mayawati. But they have never dared to tread on the Gandhi territorry. The Economist went on to question Rahul Gandhi’s capabilities. “The problem is that Mr Gandhi has so far shown no particular aptitude as a politician, nor even sufficient hunger for the job. He is shy, reluctant to speak to journalists, biographers, potential allies or foes, nor even to raise his voice in Parliament. Nobody really knows what he is capable of, nor what he wishes to do should he ever attain power and responsibility. The suspicion is growing that Mr Gandhi himself does not know.”
The article also questions his qualification. “Mr Gandhi is so secretive and defensive that he won’t respond to the most basic queries about his studies abroad, his time working for a management consultancy in London, or what he hopes to do as a politician.”
The article also goes on to quote from Aarthi Rama-chandran’s book, Decoding Rahul Gandhi. The book says, “His (Rahul Gandhi’s) push to modernise the youth organisation of Congress as if it were an ailing corporation, applying management techniques learned from Toyota, were earnest and well-meaning but ultimately doomed to fail.” And then comes the sting. “A man of immense privilege, rising only because of his family name, struggles to look convincing when he talks of meritocracy.”
The Economist says that the “overall impression of Mr Gandhi from Mrs Ramachandran’s book is that of a figure who has an ill-defined urge to improve the lives of poor Indians, but no real idea of how to do so. He feels obliged to work in politics, but his political strategies are half-baked, and he fails to develop strong ties with any particular constituency.”
It then attacks the famous Rahul coterie. “Part of the problem is presumably the coterie of advisers who surround Mr Gandhi. Western-educated, bright and eager to cosset their leader within a very small bubble, they appear unready for the messy realities of Indian politics: the shady alliances that are required to win elections; the need to strike deals with powerful regional figures who increasingly shape national politics; the importance of crafting a media strategy in an era of cable TV news. More basically, they seem not to have developed any consistent views on policy. What does Mr Gandhi stand for: more liberal economic reforms; defensive nationalism; an expansion of welfare? Instead they prefer to focus on tactics. Perhaps because of their poor advice, their man too often looks opportunistic and inconsistent.”
Of course the article talks about Rahul Gandhi’s adventure in Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, where he “led the party to a humiliating fourth place, even doing dismally in constituencies where the Gandhis have long been local MPs.”
The article also flays his oratorical skill. “His methods—poor public speaking, a failure to understand how particular castes and religious groups would act, weak connections to local organisers—did not help” in the UP polls.
It concludes by saying Rahul Gandhi comes out as a “figure so far ill-prepared to be a leading politician in India.” (FOC)